One of the more common conditions we see in Family Medicine is depression. Depression is the most common mental health condition experienced in the general population. About 15% of the adult population will experience depression at some point in their lifetime.
Symptoms of depression can include feeling low, down, sad, or blue. However, there are many mental as well as physical complaints that can be signs of depression. Other common symptoms may include apathy, disinterest, inability to feel anything, problems with sleep, appetite, concentration, motivation, and social withdrawal.
Most people feel low and sad at times. These feelings are normal reactions to life and are experienced when going through different life stressors such as losing a loved one, getting fired from a job, divorce, and other difficult situations. However, prolonged feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair that persist can signify depression.
I often find depression, and symptoms of depression are much more subtle and difficult to spot in oneself and those close to us; thus, symptoms may be missed and treatment not started. Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends regular depression screening for all adolescents 12 and over, given that adults often overlook the symptoms of depression. Similar screening recommendations exist for adults.
A tool called PHQ-2 can be an easy and quick screening for depression. This tool consists of two simple questions that one can ask themselves or a loved one. The questions are:
- Have you often been bothered by feeling down, depressed, or hopeless during the past two weeks?
- Have you often been bothered by having little interest or pleasure in doing things during the past two weeks?
A single “yes” answer of more than half or every day indicates possible significant depression, and one should seek further evaluation and care. Thoughts of death necessitate medical attention, and a plan to self-harm requires emergent care.
The good news is there are many effective treatments if you or a loved one is struggling. Effective treatments for depression may include medications, working closely with mental health professionals, and learning different coping mechanisms. Working closely with one’s healthcare provider is a great starting place to help determine the best course of treatments.
Mike Dahl, PAC
Canyon View Family Medicine